Byline: Jennifer Weil

French makeup artist Terry de Gunzburg recently fielded an order from a Dallas woman who had a hankering for a foundation suitable for her entire body.
“It will cost a fortune,” remarks de Gunzburg coolly — probably in the neighborhood of $10,000. And it will likely require more than a year’s work to develop. But such an order is no big deal for de Gunzburg, who’s grown accustomed to bizarre-sounding, pricy requests. Such are the current conditions in the burgeoning market for custom-blended, exclusive beauty products.
Her firm, By Terry, is one of several that regularly respond to clients demanding the cosmetics equivalent of couture. There was the $14,000 makeup collection with personalized colors and an exclusive fragrance. Then there are her made-to-measure lipsticks, foundations, powders and blushes, retailing for about $500 each for a year’s supply.
De Gunzburg is convinced that more and more well-heeled women are taking the L’Oreal Paris slogan, “Because I’m worth it,” to heart.
“There is also this delicious snobbism in doing things exclusively, and then waiting for the [tailored] products. It’s like waiting three years for an Hermes bag to be made for you out of fuchsia crocodile skins. It has to have something very special. People are not buying a product, but quality, and that’s very different.”
“It’s about being unique,” says Anne Semonin, founder of the 14-year-old, eponymous made-to-measure skin care company in France that has 18 sales points worldwide, including New York’s Bergdorf Goodman and Prema Nolita. Personalizing her skin care products with essential oils, Semonin creates blends that range from $18.50 for a 150-ml. plant-based cleansing milk to $103 for an apricot serum for the face.
“Women today aren’t looking for miracle creams; instead, it is about an entire ensemble. Luxury is comfort,” she says.
The trend is doubtless making Semonin significantly more comfortable. She says her sales have been up 30 percent yearly, on word of mouth alone. (All figures are at current exchange rates.)
Meanwhile, others say the recent rush for made-to-measure beauty is a backlash against today’s industry behemoths. “It is a reaction of disgust to the mega-brand,” says Laurice Rahme, president of fragrance house Olivier Creed, who adds that it also could be an extension of the growing demand for personalized fashion these days.
The 240-year-old company entered the custom-blending segment last November by mixing anywhere from two to five existing Creed fragrances and packaging them in leather-bound flacons. These eaux de parfum run from $500 to $800 for a 2.5-oz. spray and as many hour-long fittings as necessary. They are available at 10 U.S. counters, including Barneys Beverly Hills and Madison Avenue.
“We expect [custom blending] will represent 20 percent of the business” in those doors, Rahme says.
For those who don’t have deep enough pockets for the luxury of personalized makeup or fragrance, both By Terry and Creed have ready-made lines, sold in selective doors worldwide.
But the real action is custom-blending, and the players spare nothing to deliver. Creed also speeds vials of personalized scent overnight to consumers who live too far away for in-store fittings.
De Gunzburg has customers come to her Right Bank atelier in Paris for numerous “fittings,” or jets off to meet them privately.
During the first rendezvous, clients get the once-over by de Gunzburg or an associate, who then gives them some tones to try on. “I want them to do their homework,” de Gunzburg explains; clients are instructed to bring the products home, to test them under all types of light. It can take numerous meetings, and some months, before the color cosmetics — replete with engraved silverplated packaging — are finished.